"Before going to America to participate in the SUSI program, I had no friends who lived in (other parts) of the Middle East. Now I can honestly say that in Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, I have friends with different political views, who have different religious beliefs. It's really a great pleasure for me. We broke down our prejudices against each other during our five weeks together. After participating in the program with people with different worldviews I can say that I communicate better. While discussing just about any topic I can say now that I will have more experience and control. People speaking with me know that I'm listening and trying to understand them more. I have more respect for everyone to live as they wish. And I'm fighting every day to ensure that's the case in my own country. Different cultures, religions and political opinions should be able to live together.
Çağdaş returned to Turkey to complete his law studies at İstanbul Bilgi University. As part of his action plan developed during the SUSI program, he immediately got involved in helping to organize the 10th Istanbul Gathering for Freedom of Expression, a conference for activists, lawyers, artists, journalists and students—held April 9-10, 2016. The conference, held at İstanbul Bilgi University, is supported by Amnesty International, Transparency International, Reporters Without Borders and the Human Rights Law Research Center of İstanbul Bilgi University, among other organizations.
Çağdaş invited several of his new SUSI friends from Egypt and Lebanon to participate, with some financial assistance provided by the DI. He is eager to build on the success of the conference, establishing a stronger link between Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries through these relationships, and brainstorming possible collaborative projects to advance freedom of expression and dialogue.